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Panthers Rumors: Sean Payton Requested for HC Interview amid Broncos, Chargers Links

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 15, 2023

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 25: Sean Payton former head coach of the New Orleans Saints looks on during the third quarter of an NBA game between the Dallas Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center on October 25, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Add the Carolina Panthers to the list of teams interested in Sean Payton.

According to multiple reports, the NFC South team has requested an interview with the former New Orleans Saints head coach:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Some of the NFL's highest-profile coaching deals - Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick - also involved division rivals. If the Panthers were able to hire Payton, he would be the newest entrant to join the list of coaches making an intra-division jump to spice up a rivalry.

Jonathan Jones @jjones9

Carolina has received permission to interview Sean Payton for their head coaching vacancy, league source says. <a href="https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AdamSchefter</a> first. <br><br>The cost to trade for Payton would, in theory, be higher for Carolina than any other interested team.

Unsurprisingly, the 59-year-old Payton is arguably the hottest coaching commodity on the market this offseason. He's spent the past year away from the NFL, working as an analyst for Fox Sports, but went 152-89 in his 15 seasons as the Saints' head coach, leading the team to nine playoff berths and a Super Bowl title.

The fact that the Panthers and Saints are divisional rivals would add an interesting wrinkle to this potential pursuit, given that any team hiring Payton will have to first agree to a trade with the Saints. New Orleans, in turn, might charge a divisional rival a premium.

General manager Mickey Loomis told reporters Monday that the Saints were going to seek to maximize his value in any trade:

"It's complicated. Because, look, I have such great respect for him. He's a close friend of mine. He's a great coach. All those things. And I want the best for him. I do. We do, collectively as an organization. He gave everything he could possibly give to the New Orleans Saints and took us to heights that the organization and team never achieved before. So, I absolutely want the best for him. But I also recognize that he's a valuable asset, his contract is a valuable asset to our club, and it's our duty to maximize that. Look, I think between the quarterback, or a head coach, no one impacts winning more than those two guys in any building. So, I know what he brings to the table and I know that's really valuable. And it's our obligation to maximize that value if he chooses to coach again within that time frame where we have those rights."

Granted, this all assumes Payton will definitely take a coaching gig this offseason. According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, "Payton is a 50-50 proposition to return in 2023. If not this year, he'll most likely be back next year."

Among the teams interested in Payton, the Panthers are the furthest away from addressing the most important position on the field, quarterback.

The Denver Broncos have Russell Wilson, albeit a Wilson who struggled immensely in 2022. Still, the 34-year-old is a nine-time Pro Bowler.

The Houston Texans have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and almost assuredly will address the quarterback position with a young, talented prospect.

And the Arizona Cardinals have Kyler Murray, though he's coming off an ACL tear. But he's certainly better than Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold or PJ Walker, the three players the Panthers utilized under center this year.

The Panthers have the ninth overall selection and could use that pick to address the position, or look to trade up. But for now, the combination of quarterback uncertainty and the added price the Saints would almost assuredly demand in a Payton hiring doesn't have them among the favorites.